Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Alabama
10:16 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Hello. This is kind of nice. I don't have any announcements, so let’s get started.
Q Describe for us what he’s going to do on the ground.
MR. CARNEY: Well, Mark, as you know, this is a trip that was planned on very short notice, for obvious reasons, so we don't have a lot of details that we can provide to you about what will happen on the ground. He will obviously view the damage caused by these horrific storms and tornadoes and meet with families who’ve suffered greatly from this, and with local officials. And beyond that, we're just going to have to report on it as it unfolds. Unlike a lot of events, there hasn’t been a great deal of advanced choreography.
Q Will there be a statement from him?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, you can expect the President will make remarks.
Q What does he hope to accomplish with this visit to Alabama?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he wants to witness for himself the terrible devastation caused by these storms, to make clear the administration’s commitment to helping in any way that it can, and to I think put a spotlight for the rest of America on the kind of suffering that a storm like this can cause to so many families and businesses.
Q Is it just he and the First Lady? Or what are the girls going to be doing during this Alabama portion?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information on the President’s daughters.
Q Can you talk a little bit -- staying with disasters, the governor of Texas has been rather critical of the federal relief for his state that suffered the wildfires. Any reaction?
MR. CARNEY: Well, on the wildfires, I don't have a great deal of specific information with me here, but in fact, federal funding for wildfire fighting has been extensive in Texas. But I know that Nick Shapiro and the press office has a lot of detail on that for you. So our response has been quite strong on that.
Q The Priorities USA fundraising group seems to be doing the same thing the President has long opposed by raising unlimited secret donations. Why is the White House allowing them to do this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, we're not -- I read those reports. We don't allow outside groups one way or the other to do what they do in terms of campaign activity. And obviously we don't control outside groups. But the President’s position on disclosure is the same today as it has always been.
Q A former White House spokesman is leading the group. I mean, there’s obviously some --
MR. CARNEY: I read that story, too, but again, we can't -- these are not people working for the administration and we can't control their activity. The President’s position on disclosure remains the same. He believes it’s vitally important.
Q So he disapproves of --
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to characterize it except that the President’s position on disclosure remains the same.
Q Jay, will the President meet with Congresswoman Giffords at the Cape?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything more I can tell you about -- hold on one second, it’s right on my fingertips here. As I think you know, the President and the First Family will view the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour with NASA Director Charles Bolden, Jr., and astronaut Dr. Janet Kavandi. Beyond that, I don't have any information for you. Obviously if he has other meetings we'll let you know if they take place.
Q We have been given guidance that he would be meeting with Giffords privately. Is there any reason to --
MR. CARNEY: I can't confirm that at this time.
Q Just a lighter question -- did he see the royal wedding or any of the -- anything that happened in Britain today? Did he watch it? Did Michelle Obama watch any of that? Just talk about if he --
MR. CARNEY: I haven't spoken with the First Lady about it, but the President did mention that he caught a little bit of it this morning over breakfast, but obviously was busy getting ready for this trip. And he also -- I think we're putting out some paper -- he met this morning, very early this morning in the Oval Office with some of the surviving members of the Memphis Sanitation strike. And I think we're putting out some paper on that as well as a photograph.
Q So no reaction to the dress?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a reaction to the dress. I personally thought it was lovely and we wish -- all of us in the administration wish them the very best.
Q Is the President going to make remarks in Cape Canaveral?
MR. CARNEY: I don't believe we have anything set for that, no.
Q How concerned is the White House about Egypt normalizing relations with Hamas and Iran?
MR. CARNEY: With -- I'm sorry?
Q With Hamas and Iran -- Egypt.
MR. CARNEY: I'd ask you to check with folks back at the White House and the NSC on that. I don't have anything.
Q Yesterday you tweeted about Paul Ryan in Wisconsin talking about subsidies. In his budget proposal he has reducing corporate tax by 25 percent, so it was sort of in that language in the budget proposal. Is that common ground that you're finding with Paul Ryan on gas company subsidies?
MR. CARNEY: Those are two different things. My understanding is that -- the President supports lowering the corporate tax rate in a revenue-neutral way by eliminating loopholes. But specifically on the subsidies of oil and gas companies, the President opposes that. He believes that in a time of tight budgets, we can't afford it. We need to invest that money, $4 billion per year, more than $43 billion over 10 years, that money should be invested in clean energy, energy of the future -- especially when the oil and gas companies, especially the big ones, show absolutely no need for taxpayer subsidies. They are reporting this week substantial profits, in the tens of billions of dollars.
And we welcome the statement by Congressman Ryan that he believes those subsidies should be eliminated. Obviously the President feels that way, has for a long time. We were heartened also by the remarks of Speaker Boehner the other day in an interview with ABC, where he suggested that was something that should be looked at.
We just think that American taxpayer money does not need to be used to subsidize oil and gas companies that are experiencing record profits, especially at a time when American taxpayers are paying such very high prices at the pump.
Q Jay, can I try on the dollar?
MR. CARNEY: You may try.
Q So there’s been comments from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury expressing a strong dollar. But it has weakened. Is the administration concerned that it’s getting to a level that could have unintended consequences, disruptive influences, in markets? The front page today of the Wall Street Journal, administration not concerned.
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any comment on the dollar, as I never do. I would refer you to the Secretary of Treasury for that.
Q Anything on the commencement speech you can tell us?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I can tell you a little bit about that. Hold on one second. As you know, tonight the President will deliver the commencement address at Miami Dade College to an audience of approximately 4,000 graduates, family members and faculty, to applaud their hard work and stress the importance of preserving the same focus and determination as they enter the next phase of their lives.
The President will speak to the West and North Campus graduates at the James L. Knight International Center in downtown Miami.
The President will also receive his first honorary associate’s degree and be presented with the Presidential Medallion.
Miami Dade is an extraordinary story. It’s one of the nation’s largest institutions of higher education with -- get this -- more than 170,000 enrolled students, and in one of the largest minority-serving institutions, serving tens of thousands of Hispanic and African American students. The President’s commitment to education is strong and the initiative that he asked Dr. Biden to work on on community colleges is one that he thinks is very important. So he looks forward to this event very much.
Q Tell me about the speech for tomorrow for the White House Correspondents dinner. Did he write it? Is it -- who else is helping him write it? Who’s working on the jokes and how far along is he?
MR. CARNEY: That's highly classified information. I can't reveal -- you’ll have to come and see.
Q Are you writing some jokes?
MR. CARNEY: What’s that?
Q Are you writing any of the jokes?
MR. CARNEY: I am not. There are far more talented joke writers than I who are working on the speech.
Q Could you please speak briefly to the President is going to NASA where the shuttle era is coming to an end, and in part because of his policies, numerous contractors and workers are going to be losing their jobs because of the direction which he’s taking the space program. What do you have to say about that?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that President Obama laid out an ambitious plan, new plan for NASA, one that helps blaze a new trail of innovation and discovery. Congress backed that plan and agreed with the President that we needed a new direction in space. The President’s plan invests more in NASA, extends the life of the international space station, launches a commercial space transportation industry, fosters the development of path-breaking technologies, and helps create thousands of new jobs.
This important change in direction will not only help us chart a new path in space, but can help us retool for the industries and jobs of the future that will be vital for long-term economic growth.
I think the NASA Administrator has spoken to this quite a bit and I'm sure you’ve seen those comments. I think they’re useful.
Q Does the President believe the commercial part of the industry is growing as it should, or is proceeding as it should? Is he satisfied with that?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had a conversation with him on it specifically, but obviously it’s his policy; he believes firmly that that's an important path to pursue.
Anybody else? That's it?
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, guys.
END 10:33 A.M. EDT